Nespresso coffee machines have always been easy, but Nespresso’s new “Vertuo” system makes a properly instant coffee stupidly easy.
There are just so many different ways of preparing coffee, and we all take it in different ways, from short varieties made from the crema and water through the bean itself, all the way up to the mid-length and full mug varieties that rely heavily on milk type, dealer’s choice. Will you be having full-cream, soy, almond, or skim?
Coffee is one of those things that has multiple methods and multiple ways, and thanks to that, it can make things a bit of a chore at home if you want to get a cup whenever you want.
Systems like Nespresso’s encapsulated coffee pod system have helped change that, as have rival coffee pod makers, but most of these have one problem: they make espresso-style coffee, either in a short or a long.
That’s fine if you like espresso coffee with no milk, or with a dab so that you can do it yourself, but what if you want fast coffee made in the style of a latte? What if you want milk, and you want it in a mug, and you want that mug or milk-based coffee now with minimal fuss?
For that, Nespresso has an answer, but it might not be what you’re thinking.
Design and features
After championing its Nespresso pod system for years and bringing in the likes of George Clooney and Matt Damon as brand ambassadors, Nespresso is changing things up.
Its famed Nespresso pod system has been around for quite some time, but has all been about espresso style coffee, with the shorts of ristrettos and espressos, and the longer “lungo” or “long black” that people tend to like.
The system has always been a bit of a tiny espresso maker without much in the way of milk preparation (unless you spent up), though you could get Nespresso’s magnetic milk texturiser to froth the milk by quickly whirling it around.
But the cappuccinos and lattes made this way haven’t been the sort everyone desires, and if you prefer to just go with straight milk and added the coffee afterwards, Nespresso’s Vertuo line-up may in fact be a better option.
Designed in much the same way, the Nespresso VertuoPlus machine we’re checking out is a little bit bigger than the regular Nespresso systems we’ve seen. While the design is reminiscent of the modular “U” system from a few years ago, complete with the water tank sitting out on a connected platform that you can move around, the design of the Nespresso VertuoPlus is much, much taller, and yet it feels like it occupies less space.
This taller design provides a spent capsule container big enough for 10 capsules and a very, very large 1.8 litre water tank, with the system driving 19 bars of pressure through its plastic body.
The capsule system is also very different, with a new dome shape and three specific sizes, catering to the four sizes of coffee Nespresso’s new Vertuo line-up provides.
Buttons aren’t exactly plentiful on the VertuoPlus, with just the one up top for controlling the coffee-maker, making the Nespresso VertuoPlus a cinch to use, lifting the capsule loading system simply by pressing up on the mechanism once and letting the motor do the rest, loading the capsule into what is clearly capsule tray, and then closing it by pressing down on it.
And then you can use that one button, making sure you have the right sized glass or mug under the spout, because that is a critical part of this whole thing.
What is the right size to use?
Well that will be determined by the coffee pod you buy, because while Nespresso’s regular pod system can have its water amount controlled by you, most of the ease of use of the Nespresso VertuoPlus arises from how it has been designed, and that’s the control Nespresso has built into its design.
Simply put, it will decide how much water it pumps through to make your coffee, and that is something it works out from a barcode built into the pod, which kind of looks like a cute design on the under carriage, but is in fact a barcode.
You can’t read the barcode unless you happen to have a clue how to interpret Nespresso’s coded language, but you can read the boxes for the Nespresso Vertuo coffee pods, which will say things like “230ml” on the side, and show a coffee mug.
So grab that coffee mug, throw it under the spout, open the capsule system, load in the capsule, close the capsule system, pour in a bit of milk before you press that button, and then, yes, finally press the button on the Nespresso VertuoPlus.
After pressing that button — that one button on the very top of the unit — the machine whirs into action, reading the barcode and puncturing the coffee pod, filling it with water while it spins the pod, and essentially pumping the coffee out through its head.
This combination of processing through what Nespresso calls its “Centrifusion” extraction system is what makes the system perform a little differently, with the barcode playing a big part. As the machine operates, it turns the pod in its place, reading the barcode on the inside lip of the pod, and using this to brew the coffee.
While the brewing of coffee isn’t dramatically different as you jump from machine to machine, from the inside of the system, the Nespresso VertuoPlus isn’t quite the same as other Nespresso units, devices like the CitiZ, U Milk, Latissima, and so on. While they just pump the water in and pour out espresso coffee, the VertuoPlus is designed to produce either espresso or big coffees, and we were mostly testing the latter.
What is the difference between them? One ingredient: milk.
Specifically, you pour the milk in ahead of the machine being run, and then the pouring of the coffee by the machine should force the blend, with the Nespresso VertuoPlus providing a generous crema separation at the head, while the rest of the process mixes with the coffee.
And that was definitely what happened with standard cow’s milk. With specialty milk like almond milk, the separation was definitely noticeable, and you’d need to stir it in yourself, the density of the milk versus the coffee seemingly unable to blend.
That’s a minor issue, though, and really your one button solution in the VertuoPlus is there to make a big cup of coffee (or a small espresso if you can find the pods) with absolute ease of use.
And yes, you can still make espresso or do the coffee as a long black, it’s just it feels like this was made more to make a proper milk-based coffee without needing one of the magnetic Aeroccino frother units Nespresso has been selling for ages.
Much like all Nespresso solutions, the flavour is going to be one of those things you’re going to want to try in a store, because if you don’t like any of the 20 “Grand Crus” throughout 20 coffee styles on offer by the Nespresso VertuoLine, this isn’t a machine for you.
Make no mistake, while the VertuoLine produces coffee very easily, its taste may not be acceptable to all. The few varieties we had available to us we didn’t mind, but it was not like a proper cafe provided flat white or latte. Rather, it was decent acceptable coffee, through you can do much better with a bit more time and a more expensive coffee machine, the sort with knobs, dials, and probably a very big boiler on the back.
But then there’s the catch: the price.
At $299, Nespresso’s VertuoPlus is bloody inexpensive for what it’s doing, providing a system that literally does everything and produces more than mere espresso.
Yes, it does espresso, but you need to buy the specific coffee pod for that, a pod that produces 40ml of coffee.
In fact, there are four sizes for you to choose from, with espresso’s 40ml, gran lungo’s 150ml, the mug variety of 230ml, and a massive size of 414ml Nespresso will sell as “alto”.
What needs work? A new system
This separation of pods and sizes could be a problem, however, because that means Nespresso has a new system for people to learn.
So let’s make it simple: the big circular pods that come in a large box about the size of your forearm? They’re for the Nespresso Vertuo system. And the cute small pod system we’ve all been using for yonks that you can now find compatible pods for at places outside of Nespresso stores? They work on every other system.
That’s the easy explanation for how you determine the difference, and it gets easier: the VertuoPlus will not take the standard Nespresso pod, and vice versa. So at least Nespresso has nailed that.
The catch, however, is that the only pods that will work will be the ones provided and sold by Nespresso, because the barcode system is also a way of locking down what is run through the Vertuo machines.
You can call that a way of controlling product quality or a way of keeping customers buying your specific consumable, or you can call it both, as it can likely be answered to both.
But it does mean that if you like another brand of coffee or packing your own capsules, the Nespresso Vertuo system is likely not for you. Not yet anyway.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
When all is said and done, Nespresso’s VertuoLine offers a properly instant coffee in a way its other Nespresso machines have never really delivered in the past.
Yes, Nespresso machines provided easy espresso through an encapsulated mechanism, but if you didn’t drink the espresso as that or have it as a long black,you actually had to do something to add the milk, frothing the milk in an extra gadget, pouring it, and adding to your cleaning job at the end (unless you had spent extra on the expensive Lattissima models).
But with the Nespresso VertuoPlus and subsequent VertuoLine machines, that extra work goes away, and things get a little simpler. Yes, you’ll only be able to use Nespresso’s big pods, and we suspect that’s intentional, with the barcode system guaranteeing Nespresso’s system doesn’t get damaged both in coffee making and long-term purchases, but who knows how long that takes.
Ultimately, what makes the $299 Nespresso VertuoPlus excellent is just what it does for making big milk-based mugs of coffee: the VertuoPlus is stupidly easy to use, and anyone can do it.
Pour some milk in your mug, pop the pod in, press the button, and you have coffee within a minute or so. We’d call that a properly instance coffee made stupidly easy, and with a decent result.
Will it beat the trip down to the local coffee shop for a properly layered cup? No, and if you buy the big high-end machine, it won’t be that either. You can choose the beans in those options, and control how the process is made.
However Nespresso’s VertuoPlus achieve good milk-based coffee without the powdered crap Nescafé’s Dolce Gusto line works with, relying on your own milk supply, and it works more than well enough, especially for the price.